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Let's Find Common Ground

Author: Common Ground Committee

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As the tone of public discourse becomes increasingly angry and divisive, Common Ground Committee offers a healing path to reaching agreement and moving forward. We talk with top leaders in public policy, finance, academe and more to encourage the seeking and finding of points of agreement, and to demonstrate how combating incivility can lead us forward.

40 Episodes
Common Ground Committee is part of a robust and growing national movement of bridge builders, who are working to reduce incivility and toxic polarization in America today. We look in-depth at this diverse, vital coalition.  Who's involved and how are they tackling racial, cultural, and political schisms that threaten American democracy? Our guest, Nathan Bomey, is a reporter for USA Today, and author of the new book, "Bridge Builders: Bringing People Together in a Polarized Age." In this interview, we hear stories about people from many walks of life who are building the structure of a new, more united America. "Despite its transformational qualities, bridge building often attracts considerable resistance," says Bomey. "In many cases, that's because bridges promise to disrupt the status quo for people who previously benefited from or preferred social isolation." This episode looks at a constructive way forward.
The need to find common ground for improving race relations has rarely been more urgent than it is today. In this episode, we share profound insights from an interracial couple and an African-American scholar and poet. Caroline Randall Williams wrote a widely-read opinion column for the New York Times that added fresh insight to the debate over Confederate monuments and how America remembers its past. As a Black southern woman with white ancestors, she brings an innovative and passionate first-person point of view. We also share the deeply personal story of Errol Toulon, the first African-American Sheriff of Suffolk County, New York, and his wife, Tina MacNicholl Toulon, a business development executive. She’s white. He’s black. Tina tells us what she’s learned since their marriage in 2016 about racism, “driving while Black,” and other indignities that are often part of a Black person’s daily life. This episode includes edited extracts from longer interviews that were first published in 2020.
The takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan; a more aggressive China and Russia; a newly-elected hardline President in Iran: All are all major challenges facing President Joe Biden and his Administration.  Our podcast guests are Ned Temko, who writes the weekly international affairs column “Patterns” for The Christian Science Monitor, and Scott Peterson, the Monitor's Middle East bureau chief. Both are highly experienced and well-traveled foreign correspondents, who bring depth and expertise to coverage of global affairs. Among the many topics covered in this episode: Similarities and differences to Trump's "America First" approach, the implications of the rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, why China is the biggest overseas challenge for the Biden Administration, relations with America's allies, and the increased threat to human rights in Asia and Middle East. Join us to gain fresh insight on the rapidly evolving international situation.
Everyone wants the best education for their children. But parents and teachers don't always agree on how to get there. In this episode, we hear from two education leaders whose views clashed when they first met. Gisele Huff is a philanthropist and longtime proponent of school choice, including charter schools. Becky Pringle spent her career in public education. A science teacher for three decades, she is now President of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union.  After some deep initial skepticism, these women and other leaders came together and developed a transformational vision for US education. Along the way, they developed a deep respect for one another, and a friendship that has helped each of them through personal tragedies. This episode is co-produced in partnership with Convergence Center for Policy Resolution— one of a series of podcasts that Common Ground Committee and Convergence are producing together.
America’s long-term care system needs much more than a facelift. Is there a common path to solutions?Most baby boomers who retire today can expect to live years longer than their parents or any previous generation. That’s the good news. But there’s a greatly increased need for long-term care as they age. The current system is in crisis and needs much more than a facelift.  In this episode, we hear first from a policy expert, Howard Gleckman, of the Tax Policy Institute, who explains why solutions to this crisis have been so hard to find. We also interview Stuart Butler and Paul Van de Water on their differences over paying for long-term care, and how they came to find common ground. This podcast was co-produced in partnership with Convergence Center for Policy Resolution and is one of a series of podcasts that Common Ground Committee and Convergence are producing together. Convergence brings together key stakeholders of an issue to develop policies that deliver the most value to the greatest number of people. These projects emphasize collaboration and often result in friendships among people with strongly held opposing positions. Convergence recently published Rethinking Care for Older Adults, a report with recommendations to improve care, housing, and services for seniors.
What steps are needed to cause people to leave white supremacist and other hate groups of their own volition? In this deeply personal podcast episode, we explore the tactics and commitment needed to be successful in this work. Daryl Davis, an award-winning Black musician, race reconciliator and renowned lecturer, has used the power of human connection to convince hundreds of people to leave white supremacist groups. His fellow guest, Ryan Lo’Ree, a former white supremacist, is now an interventionist working to deradicalize people who have been lured into right and left-wing extremism. These two men, who came from very different backgrounds and belief systems, discuss their life experiences, lessons learned in their work, and what motivates them to convince people to change their convictions. Watch the recording of the Common Ground webinar with Daryl and Ryan: “Turning Racism and Extremism into Hope and Healing.” Listen to our 2020 podcast with Daryl: “KKKrossing the Divide – A Black Man Talks With White Supremacists.” Read Nicholas Kristof’s profile of Daryl in The New York Times— “How Can You Hate Me If You Don’t Even Know Me?”
We learn about two brave and successful attempts to get Americans of differing backgrounds and political convictions to engage in personal face-to-face conversations. America Talks and the National Week of Conversation, both held in mid-June, were part of expanding efforts to push back against deep divides and toxic polarization. In this episode, we discuss lessons learned, insights gained, and the vital difference between talking and listening. Our guests are Kristin Hansen, Executive Director at Civic Health Project and Director at AllSides, and Mizell Stewart, Vice President, News Performance, Talent & Partnerships for Gannett and the USA Today Network. Both were involved in this new initiative.
American democracy is being challenged by hyper-polarization, widespread distrust of competing parties, and extremists who seek to weaken democratic values and institutions.  In a recent poll, only one-in-six Americans said our democratic system is working very well, while nearly two-in-three voters told a Pew Research Center survey that major reforms are needed. "I certainly feel we are more vulnerable than we have ever been in the modern era," says our podcast guest, constitutional law scholar, Rick Pildes, a professor at New York University’s School of Law, and author of the book, “The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process.” In this episode, we discuss proposed changes aimed at strengthening democracy— from ranked-choice voting and reform of political primaries, to limiting gerrymandering, and campaign finance reform.
Young Americans, aged 18-29, believe that the threat from climate change is real regardless of their ideological leanings, compared to older Americans. Recent polling shows that Republican voters, born after 1980, are much more likely than older Republicans to think that government efforts to reduce climate change have been insufficient (52% vs. 31%).  In this episode, we ask: can the youngest generation of voters put aside partisan differences and agree on policies needed to protect climate and the environment as well as address the needs of businesses and the economy? We discuss the role of government, business, and how to find on common ground.  Our guests are Danielle Butcher, a conservative political executive and a leader of the American Conservation Coalition, and a liberal, Andrew Brennen, who is a National Geographic Explorer and Education Fellow, who co-founded the Kentucky Student Voice Team.
Banks & businesses are betting big on sustainable investments. Can they help politicians bridge the gap on climate change? When Joe Biden talks about the challenge of fighting climate change, he mentions jobs: not green jobs or renewable energy jobs, but “millions of good-paying union jobs.” The new administration is working to reframe the conversation about the environment at a time when many of Wall Street’s largest banks and corporations are betting big on sustainable investments — from electric cars and trucks to new kinds of renewable and carbon-free energy. On Let’s Find Common Ground, we interview journalists Stephanie Hanes and Mark Trumbull of The Christian Science Monitor, and learn the latest on the changing landscape in the great debate over the environment and climate. Can business help politicians from both major parties bridge some of their differences? Listen to find out.
Growing numbers of voters are fed up with politics as usual. In a recent survey, 62% of Americans say a third party is needed — up 5% from September of last year, and the highest it has ever been since Gallup polls first asked the question nearly twenty years ago.   Our podcast guest, former two-term Florida Congressman David Jolly, says it's time to reexamine the system that reinforces the entrenched power of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Last year, Jolly was named Executive Chairman of the Serve America Movement (SAM), a growing organization that exists in some states as a third party, and in others as a non-partisan political reform group that backs office holders who work across party lines. SAM calls itself a big tent political movement that brings people together who have different ideologies but shared political principles. In this episode, David Jolly makes the case for his movement's ambitious goal: fixing our broken politics in America.  "Multiparty democracies give greater voice to more people," David tells us. "We have allowed the two major parties to protect the duopoly themselves. The one thing that today's Democratic and Republican parties agree on is 'let's create the rules of the game in a way that we are only two major participants.'"
She lived in liberal Seattle and covered science, climate change and the environment for NPR for more than a decade. Then in 2018, journalist Ashley Ahearn made a big jump, moving with her husband to one of the most conservative counties in rural Washington State. In this episode of "Let's Find Common Ground," we hear about the profound rural-urban divide in America, and what Ashley discovered about her new neighbors and herself when she switched from the city to the country, now living on a 20-acre property with a horse and a pickup truck. We also discuss how politics and views of the land and climate differ greatly according to where people live. Recently, Ashley Ahearn launched her 8-part podcast series, "Grouse", which looks at life in rural America through the lens of the most controversial bird in the West— the greater sage-grouse. One of her great passions is storytelling, and helping scientists better communicate their research to the broader public.
When Joe Biden became president he wanted to bring Americans together, to forge unity. But maybe unity isn’t what we should aim for. Our guest this week says instead of focusing on that elusive goal, Americans need to concentrate on what’s damaging all of us: toxic polarization. In this episode we look at what toxic polarization is and how to end it, person by person. Peter Coleman has advised the Biden administration on how to detoxify America. He is a mediator and psychologist who specializes in conflict resolution. A professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, he is the author of the forthcoming book, The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization.
With American democracy in crisis, can students save the day?  For college students it can be frightening to consider the prospects for a better tomorrow. But addressing the problems in our political system will require the next generation to be more engaged and less polarized. BridgeUSA was formed by college students to tackle the crisis head-on, with campus-based chapters at colleges around the country. This non-profit group hosts discussions and events, champions ideological diversity, teaches constructive engagement, and aims to promote a solution-oriented political culture. BridgeUSA’s chief goal is to develop a new generation of political leaders who value empathy and the common good. Guests for this episode are Manu Meel, a recent graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Chief Executive Officer of BridgeUSA, and Jessica Carpenter, a senior at Arizona State University, who runs brand management and communications at BridgeUSA.
By almost any measure, Congress is much more rigidly divided along partisan lines than it was 30 years ago. Politicians run nationalized campaigns, not local ones, and frequently demonize the other side. We examine ways to find common ground among lawmakers, and those who work on Capitol Hill, with two deeply experienced Washington insiders. Betsy Wright Hawkings served as chief of staff for four Republican members of Congress over 25 years and helped build bipartisan coalitions on a range of vital issues. She is now Managing Partner of Article One Advisors, a consulting firm focused on giving organizations strategic advice on how Congress functions.  Tamera Luzzatto served as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chief of staff in the U.S. Senate from 2001 to 2009. Before that, she was on the staff of Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV for 15 years. Today, she is Senior Vice President of government relations at Pew Charitable Trusts.
"All lives will matter when Black lives matter," says our guest, Hawk Newsome, in this passionate, challenging, and fascinating podcast episode.  The co-founder and Chair of Black Lives Matter Greater New York answers the skeptics and makes the case for a movement that has grown in scale and significance since widespread protests erupted last summer after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. A devout Christian who has spent much of his life campaigning for racial and social justice, Hawk Newsome, discusses his views on love vs. violence, systemic racism, and how he reached out to Trump supporters during a tense rally in Washington in 2017.  The conversation transcends the simple designations of left and right and seeks to find meaningful solutions that respond to the realities faced by people and communities. In our podcast, we mentioned this story about what Hawk does during weekends.
Kelly Johnston and Rob Fersh disagree strongly on many issues and voted differently in the 2020 election. But they are friends and wrote recently that they "agree on major steps that must be taken for the nation to heed President-elect Biden’s welcome call for us to come together." Both believe that constructive steps must be taken to help build trust among Democrats and Republicans, despite deep polarization and a firm resistance to bipartisanship from both ends of the political spectrum. They encourage open dialogue between sectors and interest groups whose views diverge in an effort to deal with divisive political discourse. Kelly Johnston is a committed Republican and a former Secretary of the U.S. Senate. Rob Fersh founded Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, and previously worked for Democrats on the staffs of three congressional committees. Both are guests on "Let's Find Common Ground". They discuss bridge-building and why this work is so urgently needed now in an era of political gridlock. Click on bonus audio as Rob describes the process at Convergence.
The vital task of finding common ground in American politics became much more difficult in the traumatic days after the violence and mayhem at the U.S. Capitol. While many Americans viewed the pro-Trump crowd as thugs, others thought of them as patriots. This podcast is the first in a new series on dealing with polarization. We speak with professor Tania Israel, author of "Beyond Your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work." Dr. Israel is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and past-President of the Society of Counseling Psychology.   In this episode, we discuss practical, concrete steps listeners can take to have meaningful conversations that reach across deep divisions. In a time of anger, deep divisions, and even political violence, how do we begin to de-polarize America? What is our personal role in finding common ground? Are there practical steps all of us can take?  "One of the things I recommend is being curious. Try to find out more about what's behind what somebody says," Tania Israel tells us.
James Baker was at the center of American political power for three decades. His resume is exceedingly impressive— Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and White House Chief of Staff, twice. He ran five presidential campaigns. Baker's accomplishments were far-reaching— he helped end the cold war, reunify Germany, assembled the international coalition to fight the Gulf War, and negotiated the rewriting of the U.S. tax code. Quite simply, he was "The Man Who Ran Washington," which is the name of a highly-praised new book, co-authored by our guests, New York Times chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker (no relation), and his wife, Susan Glasser, staff correspondent for The New Yorker. In this episode, we discuss how Washington has become a more angry, and anxious place. We learn about Baker's track record of successful governance, his steely pragmatism, why the art of compromise is crucial to almost any negotiation between powerful rivals, his deep friendship with the first President Bush, and Baker's opinion of Donald Trump.
From tragedy and disruption caused by COVID-19, to impassioned pleas for racial justice heard across the country, and the deep divisions in our politics, 2020 was a year like no other.  On "Let's Find Common Ground", we've shared a remarkable range of thoughtful, personal and surprising conversations about some of the most important topics of our time. We revisit a few of the most memorable and special moments in this year-end episode.  Among the highlights: Houston's Chief of Police Art Acevedo and New York City civil rights activist and mayoral candidate, Maya Wiley, discuss ways to find common ground on police reform. Eva Botkin-Kowacki of The Christian Science Monitor reveals how environmental activists and farmers use different language to discuss the threat of a changing climate. Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat Abigail Spanberger explain how they work together to pass laws and find solutions to controversial issues in a dysfunctional Congress. We also listen to fascinating insights from an inter-racial couple, Errol and Tina Toulon, about how they are viewed by others.
Comments (1)


looking at the episode descriptions i see only one sided guests. why not open up to other views? why not have someone on who believes that "black lives matter" is a rascist group? why not have someone on who believes the "climate Crisis" is a joke. why not have someone on to explain why vote by mail is full.of fraud? more view points are always better.

Jul 31st
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